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National Broadband Network: A game changer in adopting cloud computing in Australia

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If a dial-up model was the only way to connect to the Internet, there would not be a business case for adopting cloud computing. We would not see the same reverberations that cloud is causing everywhere if we had to rely on 56 Kbps Internet speed offered by dial-up technology.  Think about some of our daily chores that require Internet. There are many services available to us as a software as a service.

I am going to discuss some common tasks that we do online these days. For example, we check emails; we store our important files online and can access from any device and any place; we can perform analytics provided to us as a service, can access security as a service or can perform online collaboration. These are only a few from the large spectrum of services available and can be accessed using a browser or thin clients. What are the driving forces that are causing a paradigm shift in application delivery or cloud computing that we know? It is definitely the broadband Internet. Always-on high speed Internet has opened new avenues for application delivery models which were not possible earlier. Internet and networking is the plumbing of cloud computing.

Let us take our focus away from cloud computing for a minute and just concentrate on the development of a country in this new century, known as the information age. It will be not take long to find out that broadband Internet is as equally important as other utilities such as electricity. Broadband Internet is an important driver to boost a country’s economy. OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development) published the “Network Developments in Support of Innovation and User Needs” report in 2009, which states that:

“High-speed broadband networks are a platform supporting innovation throughout the economy today in much the same way electricity and transportation networks spurred innovation in the past. New innovations such as smart electrical grids, tele-medicine, intelligent transportation networks, interactive learning and cloud computing will require fast communication networks to operate efficiently.”

According to the same report, gross domestic product (GDP) tends to follow telecommunications investments in an exaggerated way.

Now back to my favorite topic, cloud computing. If we consider the process of cloud adoption a chemical reaction, then broadband Internet will be a catalyst. Many tangible and intangible benefits will be products and by-products of this reaction. In this blog, I want to express my thoughts about the effects of the Australian National Broadband Network (NBN) that will influence cloud adoption in Australia.  A recent “Modelling the Economic Impact of Cloud Computing” study by KPMG found that speed and latency issues are some of the inhibitors to adopting cloud computing in Australia. Adoption rate of cloud computing in Australia is lagging behind that of North American and European countries. With confidence, anyone can state that the Australian Government’s NBN will probably play an important role in removing this barrier to adopting cloud computing and accelerating cloud adoption rate. Now there are other barriers to adopting cloud, including compatibility and integration issues along with security and data sovereignty issues. However, these are beyond the scope of this discussion.

You might wonder what NBN is. The Australian Government has taken an initiative to roll out high speed Internet (currently 100 Mbps, with future upgrade up to 1 Gbps) to most of the Australians. The estimated cost of this massive infrastructure project, known as the National Broadband Network (NBN), is approximately 36 billion Australian dollars. It has been defined as the infrastructure of Australia’s future. NBN is by far the largest infrastructure project undertaken in Australia, beating the Sydney Opera House and Federation Square (two landmarks of Australia).  With the availability of up to1 Gbps to 93 percent of the Australians through optical fiber and 12 Mbps to the rest of the population through fixed wireless and satellites, many doors to economic development will open. NBN will be a game-changer for adoption of cloud computing in Australia.

As Australians get access to high speed Internet, there will be a natural tendency to perform most of the tasks over the Internet rather than locally with only high end notebooks or personal computers. Smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices with Internet connection will enable users to perform their tasks online. Users can leverage the benefits of cloud based applications. Cloud application providers will try being creative and innovative to release new applications that change our lives. Coupled with this, proliferation of handheld and mobile devices will probably change the way we do business. Besides user applications, there will potentially be rapid adoption of cloud computing by large enterprises, small and medium businesses (SMB) and startup companies. There will most likely be applications of cloud in education, healthcare, communications, financial services, energy and utility industries, entertainment, collaborations, and many more areas.

In the beginning of this blog, I provided examples of some simple cloud-based applications. What else can we do with high Internet speed and cloud computing? The possibilities are endless. Here are several examples:

  • Business Continuity and Resiliency Services will rely on cloud and Internet rather physically shipping the magnetic tape or storage devices to DR.
  • Store medical and electronics health records, medical images (e.g. MRI, CAT Scans, X-Rays etc) and retrieve the huge amount of information using cloud and broadband internet.
  • Upload a raw video using high speed Internet to cloud for performing encoding or transcoding. This way can eliminate the need of having high-end computers and cloud can perform the heavy lifting.
  • Perform high-performance computing in the cloud. Users could potentially rent cloud supercomputers or high-performance computing resources available in a cloud-based utility model.
  • Significantly reduce the time of parallel processing with the option of renting 100 CPUs to finish the task in one hour rather than carrying out the task in 1 CPU in 100 hours.
  • Watch on-demand video or live TV (free or paid). Companies like Netflix might be common in the market and users will not physically go to a video rental store to rent a DVD or Blu-ray disc. There will be cloud based applications utilizing broadband.

Now I need to answer an important question here. What is all the fuss about cloud computing and broadband in Australia? I am leaving the readers with some facts. According to the KPMG study I mentioned earlier, cloud computing will boost Australian GDP by 3.32 billion Australian dollars  per annum in 10 years time if the cloud computing adoption rate is 75 percent. If the adoption rate is 50 percent, it is estimated that the GDP gain will be 2.16 billion Australian dollars per annum. NBN will need to eliminate one of the perceived inhibitors (latency and speed) to adopt cloud computing. As such, it is not an exaggeration to state that NBN will help accelerate cloud adoption. Subsequently, cloud adoption can have a positive impact on Australian economy. Based on facts presented earlier, the better the cloud adoption rate is, the greater the improvement in GDP for Australia. Let’s eagerly wait and see how NBN changes the game.

Senior Managing Consultant at GBS Cloud Centre of Competence

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